Boardwalk Furries…

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Boardwalk Furries….

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The Santa Doll

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His eyes were scabbed wounds inflicted by the night’s drinking. Crusted, rusty and painful to the blink he shook his head for clarity. Numb hands extending to insolent fingers that scratched and scratched but the sticker wouldn’t budge. He rubbed the butterfly emblem, turned the bike upside down, twisted it into his armpits and tried the leverage routine. Nothing. The sticker, placed upside down, refused to yield. The bike, bought with odd jobs and plasma, resisted his spirited adjustments. The sun was rising. The child was stirring. It was Christmas. And it was horrid.

The wife left when the silence became too much to bear. He reminded his soul of this as the whiskey dove into the coffee mug. She couldn’t handle the stress of Allison. The never-knowing she represented. He topped the mug with coffee and took a sip. The trailer was chilly but nothing like last year. His tongue burned as the whiskey soothed his shake. Allison seemed snug a moment ago. Blankets, night-light, stocking cap, heavy coat, and the Santa doll tucked under her arm. Warm all night, he hoped.
The porch greeted him with warped attention as match met cigarette. The smoke smelled of the wife. He closed his eyes and remembered but when the moment became too much he opened them and listened for the child. Focus, he thought. This is hers. He exhaled and saw the old days formed from smoke sitting dead in the still air. He gulped the coffee.

I’ll never be enough.

He knows if he stands too long on the deck it’ll give way. He wants to go inside but the smoke is good. Smooth.
In childhood he waited on this morning for sunlight. His Father woke them with a blessing and praise for the Savior Child as the son fidgeted in footie pajamas hoping for a train.
Lord we celebrate your birth this moment so many years ago as you prepared to die for our Sins and Transgressions…
The Father spoke more as the boy thought of Batman and the Green Hornet.
Socks, a book of parables and a Cowboy/Indian play set he settled for. Money was tight all over.
Money was tight now.

I sold my blood and put the sticker on upside down.
He went inside to listen for Allison and pour another drink.

The sun rose slow and gray. He stood on the porch again.
The child would wake, and as she’d done for nine years, stare at the gifts and offer a faint smile.
He exhaled and wondered why he didn’t leave first. The wife listened to the doctor, as he did. She heard the words of assurance.
Nothing wrong physically. We don’t know. Allison just won’t speak.
The child sitting on a doctor’s table turning a block in her hand. Her brown liquid eyes immersed in the rotations and angles. The wife shook her head. The husband thought of drink. He finished the cup. The smoke faded as the sunrise turned orange from gray. He knew not his daughter’s voice.
The cold touched his skin but faded against his thoughts. She will wake soon and expect Santa.

Santa put on the stickers wrong honey.
But he’s so busy.
Maybe he was just confused in the dark.

And the girl would smile a Mona Lisa smile and he’d sipped the coffee. Christmas was the morning on which every parent becomes magic. Every mystery of the world is revealed as the children squeal and laugh and dance with joy. The magicians sit on couches and wonder at the power of the child’s joy. But his magic was never enough. He saw her smile. He watched her move around the tree, touching the gifts. She’d look at him in disappointed silence and the Father wanted to scream and cry but the girl then smiled crookedly and maybe it would be okay after all.

Maybe his magic was enough.

Through the narrow trailer walls he heard neighbor kids laugh and shout at presents. He pushed open the door to listen for her footsteps. Before she left, his wife woke the child on Christmas. The night before she would position every toy just right. The day then spent presenting the magical scene and still the silence. Perhaps, he thought, the wife believed Christmas would make the child talk. Maybe the songs, the images, the movies, the anticipation would make the child suddenly declare a blessing upon us all, everyone.

The trailer was garish with lights he’d found. Dumpsters, garage sales. He reached down into empty pockets to find the recycling money, the pan-handled and prostituted money to buy lights. Below the rotting liver and dying soul, he believed it was Christmas that would save the girl. She’d speak with more light. Another nodding reindeer. If only he could find one more lighted string to adorn the deteriorating trailer. She’d smile. Laugh. Speak.

The wife sent him a letter; scribbled words requesting forgiveness. What am I to do with the silence? You know. Don’t make me say it. She looks at me and moves her hands, like I know? and still it’s not enough. Here’s some money to help.

Through the open back door he hears her move around. The child goes to the bathroom as Father sets himself near the mutated bike.
He tries again to upright the butterfly but the drink adds impairment. He worked with her to understand the signals she gave. Sign was all they possessed but the old man failed every attempt. He signed Happy Birthday but just knew to all heaven he signed Go Get Corn instead. He was never enough for the beauty of her silence. He shook with fear and thought of another drink. All he wanted was to hear her squeal. He longed to hear her squeal and to know the sound of her dead voice as it bellowed with joy. In drunken states he prayed to a sober god for the miracle promised in black-and-white movies.
A word.
A complaint.
A simple phrase.

I Love You Too Daddy.

And his heart would break.
The tears would come.
He’d say I’m sorry.
She’d say, for what?
Everything honey, you deserve a better world than my magic can bring.
But it’s all alright now Daddy. Santa came last night and made it perfect.

She flushed the commode.
He stared at the mutated butterfly and promised the empty promise of never again. Next time-sober. Next time his magic would be enough.

He closed his eyes.
Neighbor kids squealed with joy as the smoke of ghosts floated before him and the wife said,
This silence is killing me.
She moved away as the cool morning sky turned blue and he heard the child move around.

Take a sip of drink. It’s going to be alright in about ten minutes. Maybe less.
The child comes down the trailer hall. He looks at the bike and hopes she sees, but doesn’t notice.
Her footie pajamas break the hall shadows. She looks at the tree with its leaning, sparse look. She walks to the bike and notices immediately. Her small, dirty fingers run along the inverted butterfly. She lingers as the Father finishes his coffee.
Merry Christmas sweetie. You like what Santa brought?
The child lifted her Santa doll and leaning close to it she moved her mouth in silence.
He felt a tear and a shake and the lump he’d heard about as she put the Santa doll to her ear.
The three stood there as the Santa doll answered.
She rubbed the butterfly again.
The Father saw a tear on her cheek and she wiped it with the Santa doll.
She pointed at her chest and then pointed to the upside-down butterfly.
Merry Christmas sweetie.
She pointed again to her chest and then the butterfly. She repeated the motion as the Father said,
Oh, ok. You and then the bike. The butterfly? You like the butterfly? I’m glad. You know Santa was busy and it was dark. No? What? You and the bike? You…

She took his hand and rubbed it on her head.
Then she rubbed his hand along the crooked sticker.
He thought he understood. But my magic, it’s no good. I don’t…
He said, you feel like the butterfly?
She grabbed his neck and held tight. He wrapped his shaking hands around his daughter, the silent angel of his cluttered mind and he held on until her crying finally stopped.
She kissed his moist cheeks and then kissed her raggedy Santa doll.
He cried and laughed as her imagined voice reminded him.

Her magic was enough for them both.

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This is a nearly eternal reminder of the distracted ease with which I dismiss vital parts of my life. It is a gift, this sociopathic ability to ignore emotion, or so I tell myself. Truth is I’m probably more emotional than I dare admit to the fat bastard staring at me in the mirror each day. He’ll chop off my hands and give what few words I have crippled against his tide of ambition and spoon-fed impotence.

Much has changed since last I visited these pages. So much that when I read the words of my own (?) creation I wonder what hapless fuck wrote them. Did I say that? Is that my story? If so, why did I forget it existed? Why the hell did I start a free blog of stories I hoped to one day edit, correctly, and publish?

What demon of ambivalence invaded my writing?

Like you know. Or care. I don’t. So what chance do you have?

There is no renewal in the sense people say it. I’m not renewing my blog because to do so would mean doing all the same shit over and over again. I’m revisiting the ego-centric beast and seeing what good it may offer in passing.

So the most recent story came from a book I’ve worked on for so long it makes me sick to admit. It is a characterization novel with little plot and even less coherence. I started on it when I was about 35 for reasons lost. Since then I’ve written mostly short stories, weird messages to friends, a few poems, one resignation letter (I never got to use. Bastards fired me first.) and more than a few plot summaries.

But this stab at writing will be different I feel. It is not inspired by anyone or anything or any place or… I’m out of anys. I’m tired. That’s all. I’m tired of all the…any song, there’s one!…I’m tired of the ignoring. Tired of the silent self-directed anger in which I writhe like a sunlit cockroach.

So, maybe it’ll be worth tuning in. Maybe not. The confusion of blogging is that too many think it is for them. It’s not. It’s the writer’s wish to test their words against a world, even when that world remains silent. Seeing your own words on-screen or on paper is therapy. Try it.

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Happy Thanksgiving

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If you ever wonder why you ride the carousel
You do it for the stories you could tell. -JB

Best Intentions: ROMEOS.

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He inhaled the smoke thinking of the old man’s words on a scratchy connection.

You join up you’ll smoke more, cuss more, drink more and play cards like a damn shark.

Eighteen years and the fatherly wisdom offered fit in one cliché sentence. He inhaled trying not to cough and think about the flight tomorrow. He returned his focus to the house in front of him.

It sat on a corner across from the police station. Deteriorating, grungy and leaning to the left the house sat in a pit of blackened memories. The impassable porch warped into the evening hue. He recalled painting the porch years before. Pink Floyd and Double Cola from the dollar store one block away. He looked down the two blocks of Main Street and heard ghosts laugh amid two-story gravestones. He childhood scrawled in epithets on each intersection.

That day the porch was covered with green oil based paint and sweat. The house smelled of cat piss and kerosene and the stench of poverty to which he made angry love as tears soaked his pillows. Why? When? What? Who? Questions with no commas, no semi-colons, no periods. Questions that lingered like kerosene fumes in that Winter when the power died twice in one month. Here sat the house in which story after story was written. Slowly he fed them to the kerosene heater.

It was one of eight houses. He’d visited five with only a few more left. Each one the same. Drive over. Get out. And then let the memories come back without fear. He laughed. He cried. He ached as only memories can make one ache. Tomorrow around 8 am, it ends. The path long desired drawn on a bus ticket. Distant lands where everything was his creation. Every word, every memory, every Truth was his to create. A god of his life, finally. The dreams fade as reality takes over. The words he painted with silent fingers over his bed would come, he was sure. His dreams, his words, his feet; all aligned for the first time.

But tonight such philosophy was bullshit. Replaced with harsh words for memories long evicted from the house of his life. One house, a tall one with yellow trim. He visited this house earlier and here he remembered the old man’s passing. The first day he saw him in a decade was the last day he saw him forever. He showed up on the step while Mom worked another job the boy couldn’t remember. Their eyes were the same but different as one sought forgiveness and the one sought revenge. Silence floated as the boy answered.

I don’t know when she gets home.

Gets home, what?

Gets home.

Your Mom didn’t teach you any respect.

No, you didn’t.

The old man laughed.
A smartass. How about I take you over my knee?

How about you walk off the porch without crutches?

The old man takes a deep drag.

Let her know I came by.

No, I won’t.

He walks off the porch and the boy feels what it is to be a Man.

It was in this house where the boy heard of the old man’s death and wished he was old enough for whiskey so he could offer a proper salute.

His mother cried and spoke of the old days and of jazz and how once, way back then, once he was a wonderful man who danced like Astaire and made her laugh like Jerry Lewis and how one day you’ll understand son. One day you’ll understand.

No ma’am. I won’t.

They were living in the green house when the boy lost his virginity. She was an older woman (probably twenty) and he was a funny kid who used humor relentlessly. She thought he was cute and funny and being a large, and largely, unattractive girl, she viewed the boy as easy prey. He relinquished without hesitation as her wine coolers and affirmations floated through his room. She was older and unaware that the boy, like all boys, worried the words others used. When the night became morning, he dismissed her in the fashion the old man would’ve held proper.

There was another house where an Uncle visited. Here the boy knew only he wanted to make his fortune, return home, buy the home and burn it to the ground.

A car passed the boy as he leaned against his car staring at the abandoned cat piss house. The stranger waved and received no response.

He snuffed the smoke and dropped his narrow hips into the seat. Tomorrow would be filled with tears and love and all that jazz people held so dear when standing at a bus station. He felt no love. He knew few tears. This old town can rot, he thought. I never belonged here. Something’s always been off about my words and their words. My thoughts ridiculed. My life mocked. Fuck them and the preacher who forgives them. The car moved through the streets as if by memory. Each block. Each corner. Damn near every house is a memory of a thought, an action, a night, a time when his life was, for only a brief internal moment, all his. And then it faded. As it does now.

Here he stands before the last house. Inside the lights shine bright. The noise bounces from the windows. The night is crisp with hickory smoke and despite his best intentions, he smiles. It’ll be warm inside. He’ll be lonely, he knows. He’s accepted the fringe. Surround me with people, he thinks, and I’ll still feel lonely. The questions fade as he stares at the bright white moon. On the other side of that moon, he thinks, everything is the same as it was when Jesus was here, when Da Vinci walked. Those stars are the same stars every person who ever lived has seen. They’ve all felt this way. Maybe. Maybe some of them did.

He laughed out loud. He blew long and hard to watch the cold smoke spread before him.

It might be the last time I see my breath, he thought. Never know. That’s ok. I’d rather never come back than be caught coming back. Tomorrow. Panama. God knows what that means.

A voice calls from inside. I think he’s back. His mind races to come up with the introduction, the stories, the method of his personality mastered for years now. Maybe they all know. Maybe they don’t. Either one is good. Some day it’ll all come out, he thinks. One day.

He walks into the last of eight houses determined to remember everything he sees, everything he hears and despite his best intentions, everything he will miss.

The End is Nigh.

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I took three days off work so I could stand by the road and beg for money.  My face, plump from years of abusive prosperity, lacked the appearance of homelessness, but I hoped dirt smeared and two days’ stubble would deflect my audience.  I misspelled enough words on my sign to add ignorance to my implied list of woes.  Our town only has one bum, and being the non-competitive sort, I decided to drive 50 miles away and set up shop.  I took no identification, no money.  I left my car in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot.  When I was in grad school I learned the Piggly Wiggly was the first supermarket to offer shopping carts for their customers.  Until that time, a customer presented a list and the clerks went off to hunt, or the shopper carried a small hand basket.  The hand basket was popular since the social contract commanded women to shop daily for their family’s food.  The shopping cart made it possible for women to buy more than one day’s worth of food.  Suddenly, women had hours per day available for Soap Operas, gossip and eventually the Equal Rights movement.  If something called Piggly Wiggly could enhance the social position of women everywhere, surely my car would be safe in its care.

I stood there for ten minutes before a person looked me in the eye.  I avoided the distant stare or sunglass-covered method used by so many of my potential brethren.  I wanted them to look me in the eye.  And I, them.  He was in a pick-up truck and bobbed his head to music I couldn’t hear.  He stopped bobbing long enough to nod at me.  I nodded back.  He drove away.  The next driver didn’t look up from his cell phone long enough to notice me.

It was then I thought about stepping out in traffic.  The feeling of metal on flesh sending me reeling backwards.  Concrete scraping my head as I fade to black.  A stranger’s voice being the last voice I hear.  He just stepped out!  Nothing I could do!  What the hell? The image of Hell coming clearly into view.  Satan and my old sixth grade teacher standing there egging me across the threshold of eternal damnation.  The local paper reporting “local homeless man commits suicide”.  Then they find out.  He wasn’t homeless.  He worked over in ________.  Fine, upstanding citizen, really.  Dressed as a bum.  Begging for change. Working for food, or beer, whichever is cheaper on you.  The mild scandal back at the office.  My God! Did you hear?  Yeah, I heard.  Standing on a corner, begging…?

I laughed out loud.

An hour later someone gave me two dollars all waded up like from a dryer.  She was a pretty girl who smelled young and sparkled when she smiled.

Here you go sir.  God Bless you.

I’d practice no response to the giving.  My mind focused solely on the action of waiting for pity.  I came up with something I thought proper.

The End is Nigh!

The pretty girl with her smells and sparkles hopped back in her car quick.  Nothing scarier than a homeless End Times nut.

A policemen stopped by and waved me into the parking lot of the abandoned convenience store in which his car idled.

What’s your name buddy?

The End is Nigh!

For you it might be.  What’s your name?

William Henry Blank.  My friend’s call me Billy.

I ain’t your friend.  We’ve got an ordinance (he pauses to take a drag, exhales in my face) against panhandling.

I’m handling no pans officer.  I’m simply standing here with this sign.

Well you can’t do that.  Not here.  Where’d you come from?  Never seen you ’round here. Hitchhiker?

I live in __________.  Own a small law practice there, actually.

I bet you do.  I’m the King of Columbia too!

Columbia has no King, officer.

Look, you keep being a smartass and I’ll take your dumbass in for resisting, vagrancy…

You’ll do nothing of the sort.  The End is Nigh, I tell you.  My car is at Piggly Wiggly, that bastion of Women’s Rights.  I’m William Blank.  I own a law practice in _____________, and have no interest whatsoever in listening to your harassment.  Your town ordinance specifically allows for signs seeking donations for worthy causes.  Ambulance.  Fire Department etc.  Food is a worthy cause.  Alcohol is a worth cause.  And I’m asking for nothing more than what the signs says…  Give What you can.  Hungry.  God Bless.

The officer eyed me a minute more.  He squinted, as if he was thinking or trying to become capable of thought, I’m unsure. 

You wait here.

I’ve no intention of doing anything but.

He returned to his car and spoke into his radio.

Here I reminisced on the day I last worked.  Routine day in many ways.  Coffee.  A brief review of pending cases.  I answered a few calls, returned a few.  An old friend sent a letter asking me for legal help, pro bono.  I dashed off a resounding Yes and gave it to Mary for mailing.  The doctor called and offered his diagnosis.  Stage Four.  Something about a few months.  It is said by many that a person’s reaction to such news impacts their recovery as much as all the power of Medical Science combined.  I sat there for a moment and briefly wondered if it would’ve not been better had he told me to come in, instead of saying it over the phone.  Potential litigation there, I reflected.  I thanked him for the phone call and agreed to come in to discuss our options.  Our options…as if…We had Cancer…

I returned home that day and fed Sampson after putting him out for bladder relief.  In the living room is my Father’s old chair.  It was brown, leather high back with blackened arms.  I lit a cigar and waited for a response from myself.  None came.  I suppose I’d known for years.  All the drinking, eating and smoking.  There was part of me waiting to die long before the news hit.

Well, you seem to check out.  There is a William Blank over there and no one has seen him for a few days. The lady there, Mary, described someone just like you.  Down to the know-it-all attitude.  What are you doing Counselor?  Out here like this.

The End is Nigh!  People should be warned and… 

I could think of nothing to say.

He stared at me, then said,

Right.

I returned to my post.  Across the street and down four houses, a child was playing in the yard.  There was plastic pool in which the child screamed and laughed while splashing water.  There was a woman nearby watching the child and laughing.  I waved when she glanced my way.  A moment later she carried the child inside.

The high clouds darkened bringing the smell of rain.  I supposed more money would come my way in the rain.  No.  I made my way back to the Piggly Wiggly, sloshing my feet as a child might in the puddles.  I kicked the water high thinking I might been a field goal kicker had law school not offered such profitability. Sports pays well but only to those determined to be the best. Even a mediocre lawyer makes a decent living compared to most. At best I was a step above mediocre and such acknowledgement satisfied me.  My nose never longed for a grindstone, my stomach felt no craving for an early morning worm.  Such clichés of success seemed hollow as a balloon.  My practice would die with me.  This too, seemed oddly comforting.

My take for the day was six dollars, mostly in change.  Twenty-eight cents of which I found along the sidewalk while walking.  The downpour continued as I reached the parking lot.  I went in the store to buy whatever six dollars would bring.

Excuse me, I said to the cashier.

Beer is over there, she said pointing behind me.

Ah, no thank you.  I’m wondering where the little cheap cakes are, you know the boxes of them?

That way.

I followed the line of her finger and located the section quickly.

I stood outside next to a broken mechanical rocket ship and devoured the Cake Rolls.   As I ate, an older woman walked up and handed me a Five dollar bill. 

No ma’am. Thanks.  I’m off the clock.

She huffed a ‘God Bless You’ my way and kept walking.

I shoved the money in my pocket.

The rain let up some so I headed out to my car.  As I approached I realized my keys were still in it and the door locked.  I laughed at the idea of getting arrested trying to break into my car.  I walked back to the store and used my silver earnings at a pay phone.  I picked up the receiver and realized I had no one to call.  No one that would consider bringing me a spare key to my car.  Not a soul that would drive 50 miles to help me out even though I had cancer.  No one knew I had cancer except me and the Doctor.  I called the Doctor.

Doctor Thomas?  Yes sir, this is William Blank.  I need your help.  I’ve locked my keys in my car over here in _____________ and need you to bring me a spare set from my office.  Yes, it’s about an hour or so drive. Weather is rather crappy, yes.  But see. Yes I do have friends, I suppose.  But see.  No, I can’t call the police.  Funny story, that.  Over here.  Well, I’ve spent the day panhandling and now they think I’m a bum and if I call them to ask them to open my car…yes, you see the problem?  Good.  You always struck me as a sharp tack overall.  You’ll come then?  I see. Yes, I understand.  Being with family is important, no doubt.  Thanks.  I’m sorry to bother you.

I hung up as the voice was asking for more money.  For three more minutes, please deposit seventy-five cents.   Funny how money buys the most meaningless things like more time on a phone.

I stood there for a moment checking my options.   I could call Mary and use my pull as employer to get her over here.  I’d have to pay her I suppose.  I ventured inside and asked the clerk.

Is there a locksmith service locally?

As she explained about her brother-in-law and how his neighbor knows a guy, I realized my pocket was empty and all proof of financial solvency was an hour away.   The bank was closed.  Shit.

I bought a cheap cigar and got a light from a construction looking guy walking in the store.   When he came back out, he handed me a quart of beer wrapped in a brown bag.  I accepted but promptly threw it away when he drove off.  The rain let up.  Night drifted in and soon the air was cold.  It was mid-week so the parking lot of Piggly Wiggly remained mostly empty.  As time went on I decided to break out my rear, passenger window and get into my car.  Cost be damned.

I used my elbow at first and finding that too painful, decided to use an odd metal pipe I found near the dumpster. I swung and the window shattered.  I popped the automatic locks, got in the driver’s side and drove off before I realized how comfortable it was to be in my element again.  The road opened quickly though the darkness gave me claustrophobia.  I tried to laugh at the course of my day but found humor supplanted by a desperate fear. No one to call to help.  No one knew I was dying.  No one.

The mood mellowed as I came closer to home.  I thought on which Bourbon to sip.  I had several chapters left in a spy novel I was reading.  After a warm shower, I’d settle into my old chair and relax.

My mind seemed empty at the police check point.  I had nothing they requested; no identification, no license.  No worthwhile explanation about why my rear, passenger window was busted out and a bum seemed to be driving such a nice car.  One officer recognized me and convinced the others to let me through.  I asked if one of them had a smoke.  None did.

My neighbor, Mrs. Callaway, always irritated me.  She was nosy, smelled of flowery perfume and spoke with a question mark at the end of her sentences.  The royal We was employed by Mrs. Callaway, in an attempt, to me, of sounding cultured.  Silly.

As I returned home she met me near my door.

Mr. Blank, I see we’ve had a rough day at the office?  Perhaps you work too hard?

I yelled.

I’ve got Cancer you sanctimonious bitch!  You happy?  Tell the whole fucking’ world if you want…the old bachelor lawyer is dying!

She stood there as a tree just before I collapsed on her shoulder sobbing.  I felt her pasty hands on my back as all the madness unloaded.  She helped me in to my home.  I questioned for years whether Mrs. Callaway would break into my house to snoop around.  As she deftly moved through the house retrieving towels I felt grateful for her busybody zealotry and disregard for state laws.  She rubbed my head dry as my hands shook violently.

No one knew.  No one to call.  I blathered on like an idiot. Spilling my cancerous guts on her sagging ears.

She took my hand and began to pray.  I leapt forward and tried to kiss her, grabbing her 62-year-old breasts.

A smack across my face and she was gone.

Cancer or no, you’re not to treat me like a whore!

I dried myself off, showered, and dried off again.  I sank into the chair with my book and bourbon and tried to clear my mind.

I felt the tears well up behind my eyes.  I called Mary at her home and informed her I was closing the practice for a while. 

Personal reasons, I said when she asked why.

You know Mr. Blank, things are tough everywhere.  My daughter told me today about some man begging near her house.  He kept saying The End is Nigh, The End is Nigh. People are crazy these days, sir. 

I laughed.

I’m sure I’ll open up again soon Mary.  I’ll have someone send over two-months’ pay to your house.

Thanks, Mr. Blank.  Anything I can do?

No. Thank you.

I hung up and fell asleep before finishing my drink.

Writing through the Dream, T.C.’s old joke and the music we should all hear.

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You write the piece long before the title appears.  Right here I should insert some contemporary or classic literary reference but to be honest I haven’t read that many good books.  Well, I’ve read them but I can’t remember shit because I really think a good book leaves with you an emotional note more than a quote.  Who gives a damn if Fitzgerald used way too many, very, very over-used adverbs in describing most everything when your finish, IF you finish, you sincerely wish that someone would really, really keep telling the very, very interesting story?  How many sentence fragments does Cormac McCarthy use when telling us about some Kid hellbent on violence or what an apocalypse looks like when pushing a grocery cart?  Honestly.  Plus, classic literature sucks.  How many times does Dickens have to tell you Marley is dead before you understand?  He wrote well for his time, but for all time?  Not so much.  Great plot, horrible writing.

Here I am drinking and listening to Johnny Cash and wondering where this fiction addiction will lead.  Hellfire, I don’t know.  I just find myself writing whatever crazy shit I come up with and losing myself in the process.  Writing is a lot like using drugs; you don’t know where it’s going and it is probably bad for you…but still…it’s a lot of fun.

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Gaines lives down here.  Hell, he teaches at The University of Louisiana, Lafayette and if I were a stalker-type I’d long since shown up at his door begging for inspiration.  I don’t see the need in grovelling at his groovy feet asking for inspiration.  Besides, he’d probably call the cops once he found out I was a Conservative. 

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Ugly mess, politics.  Everyone clamors for their rights, their shares, their pieces of eight from the booty haul of the American Dream but Truth be told, it ain’t so Buster.  The American Dream was a con script from jump based on Marketing needs and the want of some guy named Levi in selling sub-divisions to returning G.I.s.   I can speak my mind, I can show to any Church on Sunday and I can expect to be left the hell alone on my property; that’s the American Dream, if you ask me.  All this Mojo about an attack on said Dream, or continuation of said Dream is more Marketing.  Look at it this way…Politicians get their chubbies by promising goodies to the masses.  The masses, woefully uninvolved in their own Dreams, believe what the Politicians say…The DREAM is under Attack.  or, THE DREAM is REAL..  Either way, you’re a sucker about to swallow a load that just plain tastes gross.  The Constitution, for the most part, is damn hard to over turn.  Let it go.  Quit voting your fears and vote your brain.  Seriously.

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I’m Homophobic.  No doubt.  Think about what those guys do to themselves…for FUN.  Honestly, I get skittish thinking about a doctor’s visit now that I’m over Forty.  Those guys do such things for enjoyment.  That’s toughness.  Damn right I’m Homophobic…one of those guys could probably kick my ass all over creation without a thought.  Homosexuality…that’s T0ugh.

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I don’t know who Honey Boo-Boo is…

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I began this story about a kid who wakes up at his own funeral.  There…you know all I know now.

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For anyone coming across this blog by mistake, I say again: Writer’s Block doesn’t exist.  Like Mid-Life Crisis, it’s an excuse based on Fear and Laziness.  Get over it.  Not every word you write will be good.  Just write it.  Wait six months.  Come back to it.  Then decide what to do with it.  You aren’t God and you aren’t whoever your favorite writer is….hell, your favorite writer isn’t your favorite writer.  They’re just some person who stuck it out through the FEAR.

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Back in the Army this guy used to tell everyone that the key to a large Manly Member was to rub Lard on it every day.

Some kid took his advice.  Every day for weeks, this kid rubbed his Happy Spot hoping for an increase in his bounty.  Nothing. In Truth, his Manliness grew smaller during the process….

After several weeks, the kid confronted the soothsayer of all things lengthy….

You said I would see some increase if I rubbed it each day.

True Dat my friend.  You used Lard every day?

Lard? Well, they didn’t have that…I used Crisco.

Dumbass, Crisco is a SHORTENING….

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Get drunk, listen to the Blues and get back to me.

Sturgis Unmasked. from the novel, ROMEOS.

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Sturgis, this Oklahoman with a broad battleship like back, kept to himself. Barrel chested and endowed with a disarming, constant scowl, Sturgis reeked of anti-social tendencies. At first glance, he seemed a demigod of physical and military prowess sent to show the weakness of mortal soldiers everywhere. All brawn, little brain, no laughs. Robot Soldier perfection. During the day, he’d sit alone either reading a Clancy novel or writing a letter. At night, he’d haunt the barracks, often while consuming Sangria in a ‘I Love Portobello’ coffee mug, and lumbering through the halls bellowing, “Panama Baby!” or “Who wants to arm wrestle?”. Often his solo parade was born late on a Tuesday. We all heard him through our doors, his hands slapping the walls.  No one went outside during his walks.  Sturgis was looking for something during his Sangria lined haunting. A thing not issued by the Army.

It was  September and the mornings were cool and damp. Morning formation was at oh-six-thirty. Forty some odd soldiers milling around talking about whatever there was for them to talk about. Plans for the weekend, memories of last night, who won the game on AFR. Reston and I were standing by the tree as Tarboro smoked a few feet away. Sturgis walked by, the air-filled with Sangria and aftershave.

Hey Sturgis, Reston said, you should come with us to the club Friday.

Clubs are like gyms; only amateurs need ’em. Besides, they don’t sell Sangria.

Dude, every bar sells Sangria down here.

Sturgis squared up and looked at us. I couldn’t tell if he was looking at Reston, Me, or the jungle in the distance.
He groaned and moved away.

The topic was never revisited.

We were sitting under the bohio one day in October when Smith brought Sturgis up.

You know what I heard about Sturgis? He’s been paying to play with some local girl up in his room. You know he’s got the big corner room all to himself right?

He’s got a roommate. Some guy in Alpha Company who is always in the interior somewhere.

Yeah, whatever. He’s alone all the fucking time right? So, I hear he’s been paying some girl to come to his room late at night. Ruiz came back to the room Sunday morning at around four. He had CQ and was coming back to get…well, anyway. I don’t know why he coming back. But he told me he was coming up the stairs and some girl was walking out of Sturgis’ room counting some cash.

Bullshit. Sturgis? No way. Tarboro said.

Why not? I asked. Even a barracks rat needs lovin’!

Was she good-looking? Reston asked.

Shit I don’t know. Ruiz said he was sure it was even a girl. Said she walked like a dude.

Oh shit.

Oh shit is right. That would explain a lot you know? Why he doesn’t go out. Why he drinks wine.

Man, I drink wine. Wine is like 18 percent alcohol versus three and half for beer. Wine gets you buzzed quicker.

Reston, you seriously drink wine? I asked.

I have, on occasion. It’s pretty good and girls think you’re cultured if you drink wine.

Yogurt’s got culture, you’re just a ho! Tarboro said. Everyone laughed.

Seriously! Smith said, we’re talking about Sturgis and his she-hims. Who’s gonna ask him?

What? Ask him? You’re outta your fucking mind. I ain’t asking that big, evil-looking bastard anything. Whadda you say to him? Hey Sturgis, you like boys dressed up like girls?

Transvestite. Tarboro said. They’re called transvestites.

Sorry about that. We don’t have many of those in Mahalia and they don’t exactly throw that on a vocabulary tests.

Shelton walked up and took a seat near Reston.

What’s up?

Tarboro is confessing his fascination with Transvestites. I said.

Dumbass, I was just saying.

Oh, Shelton said. I thought for a minute you said Transylvania. You know like that movie with all the weird vampires and Meatloaf sings that song.

Everyone looked confused.

Anyway. No, Smith hears Sturgis likes some Panamanian Transvestite and the he, she, it shows up late night for a little arm wrestling.

That’s just gross. Shelton said.

Yeah it is, you should tell him next time you see him. Reston said.

Which one is Sturgis? Shelton said.

Big bastard. Muscles on top of muscles with rebar running through them.

Shelton laughed. Yeah, I’ll keep my opinion to myself.

There is no Fall season in Panama. The seasons are Rainy and Dry, that’s it. The child in me kept waiting for the Mango tree in front of our barracks to turn Orange, then Brown. I would look through the screen and wonder if the Panamanian cutting grass had ever seen a rake or smelled wet leaves. What would my life be like, I thought, had I never played backyard football with freezing hands? What would it feel like to not have the memory of raking leaves, jumping in them, and getting yelled at to rake them all back up? My mind rolled over the what ifs and whys found in the quiet. What would be different if Dad had stayed? If I’d studied in school more. Each chance I got, I looked at that tree and waited for it to show Fall to me, to let me see a moment of my home. The sun would set behind the barracks, bringing the shadows to creep across Fort Davis. First the landing field in the front, then the pool and club. The rooftops of the quad buildings would fade then suddenly only the twinkling of the distant Canal’s lights. When able, I would watch the darkening and listen to the questions in my mind as the nocturnal jungle echoed over the quiet fort. A few times I found myself mumbling words under breath as Sturgis topped the stairs, Sangria in hand. I’d smile, he’d ignore me and my night would end.

Halloween approached and the rumors about Sturgis became established, unspoken, facts. From other Romeos, we learned that Sturgis’ behavior could land him a dishonorable discharge and potentially Leavenworth time for bringing ‘unsecure’ personnel into the barracks. We joked about the idea of secure and unsecure personnel in barracks that housed Army-issued beer machines. The rumors must have touched Sturgis’s ears for he was more withdrawn in time. He was seen running and pushing-up around the barracks and that was it. When we gathered under the bohio, or in the office during heavy rains, Sturgis behaved as if no one were there. Sightings of Sturgis and his partner increased, leading us to joke about them less and less.

Sturgis was on guard duty at the Tank Farm as guys talked about it under the Bohio.
Crude jokes and judgement abound, and right here I’d say I didn’t go along but I did. Everyone joked about some. Everyone except Shelton. After a while, he lost it.

We’re here because we enlisted, Shelton yelled. You enlisted for college, I enlisted for patriotism. It shouldn’t matter what Sturgis does, you know? He enlisted. He’s wearing the uniform and that’s all that should matter. You think he wants to hit on you Ruiz, or that he might try and screw you in a foxhole? That’s just dumb. That guy is bigger and tougher and meaner than all of us and when bullets start flying are you gonna check and see who the guy screwed last night before you protect him, or expect him to protect you? No, buncha assholes. Just let him go.

Shelton got up and walked away.

Ole’ Shelton’s a queer too, someone said.

Shelton came rushing back to the table and got up in the soldier’s face.
No, I’m not. I’m a soldier in the United States Army and so is he. More than that he’s a Romeo and you’re acting like a bunch of jack asses who can’t see past your own asses.

Tarboro laughed quietly. Asses can’t see past your asses…

Shut up Neil, Shelton said.  Seriously? You too. You should know better than all this shit man. We’re in this together, all of this. Nobody goes it alone, remember?

Sturgis became more withdrawn but on Halloween night no one gave much thought to him. The NCO club was holding a costume party and everyone was jived about the idea of Sexy Panamanian Vampires or half-dressed Columbian Nurses. They were letting locals on post for the event and our restricted duty was up on October 30.

The night of the costume party came and we four dressed up in the same outfit: Young Soldier Trying to Get Laid. It was the most popular male costume of the evening, all the Romeos wore it. The latrine reeked of various cologne while beer cans sat in pools of their own sweat on the shelves above the sinks. Music was blaring from J.P.’s boombox as guys laughed and joked about their prospects for the night. I was leaving the latrine, decked out in my best faded jeans, button-up shirt and flip-flops when Reston ran up.

Dude, you gotta come. No shit. M.P.s came up the steps and I said, “Hey nice costume.” and they didn’t laugh. So I watched them and they were headed towards Sturgis’s room.

No shit.

No shit. This is gonna get ugly they try to arrest that big bastard.

We knocked on the door and retrieve Tarboro as we headed over. By the time we got there, two M.P.s were standing outside his room and we could see through the open door, two more inside. One, a jet black guy, was reading something to Sturgis. The big man sat still, looking forward. He nodded and looked down at the floor.

Ruiz came up the stairs and yelled, Holy Shit man. They’re some M.P.s out front and I think they got Sturgis’s girl, guy…whatever with them. She’s crying all over the place, screaming about Sturgis hitting her or they broke up. I couldn’t tell too much. But she kept screaming, el es un maricon, maricon.

What’s that mean? Reston said.

She called him a fag, Ruiz said.

I saw Sturgis through the door as he began to pack his duffel bag. It all seemed surreal. The M.P.s there, the faint sound of the spanish transvestite screaming outside. I found myself wondering what to do when I heard Reston ask the question aloud.

I don’t know, Tarboro said. Sure as hell don’t seem right, you know.

Other Romeos gathered, mostly to gawk, as Sturgis finished packing his bags. No one spoke. We heard the distant thump of the NCO club waking up and muffled words coming from the M.P.to Sturgis and back.

Ruiz spoke up. This is fucked up man. This guy was up for dying for his country but they don’t want him because of what he does behind a locked door.

The irony of Ruiz’s defense brought a smile to my face.

Sturgis exited the room with his duffel bag over his shoulder. His eyes never left the floor.

Take care Sturgis, one guy said.

Sturgis groaned and kept moving.

You soldiers disperse now, the M.P said. Go on about your business.

We stood there and watched Sturgis walk away.

Go on about your business Soldiers. This is over.

As a flock of birds, we moved as one away from the scene and crossed the barracks to another stairwell.
Words of protest and disbelief grew as our feet hustled down the back steps. We exited and ran around the barracks to the front.

Sturgis was just leaving the building. Even in the light, it was obvious Sturgis’s girl was a Transvestite. She had big brown eyes framed in red from tears, full red lips and an Adam’s apple as big as a melon.

The big man caught her eye.

Por que Hernando? He said.

You say you no love me. I no love you maricon, if you no love me.

But goddamn, you ruined my entire life, you fucking bitch.

She responded in Spanish, swinging her muscular arms in the air as an M.P. tried to stop her.

The M.P.s pushed Sturgis towards the other HUMVEE to no avail. He moved when he wanted to, if he wanted to.

I said I just needed time. I told you I can’t just take you home with me. Hernando, I do love you.

She stopped yelling. Si?

Si? the big man said.

Holy shit, Reston said standing next to me. What the fuck?

Shut up man.

Honey, I can’t now. I just can’t anymore. It’s illegal in the Army. Another M.P. came over to assist the struggling duo in moving Sturgis.

Oh, I’m sorry then, Hernando said. I do love you maricon. Goodbye. She got back in the Humvee.

Sturgis began to move with the M.P.s requests. His eyes died as Hernando sat in the HUMVEE.
We began to go our ways when I noticed Shelton standing in his shorts with shaving cream still on his face.

He was saluting.

We didn’t go out that night.

Later, in our room, Tarboro was smoking as I tried to write in my journal.

You know man, I don’t know.  Tarboro said.  I couldn’t tell if Sturgis was crying because of his career or because of his broken heart.

Yeah.  I said.

It just don’t seem right, you know?  He said, crushing his cigarette.

I know.

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